An anti-occupation group placed 174 backpacks in front of the Supreme Court building in Jerusalem on Tuesday, protesting the state’s plan to demolish the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the West Bank, including its internationally known school.
The backpacks represent each of the children who attend the so-called Tire School, which is set to be demolished by the Israeli army in the next weeks unless the High Court of Justice grants a petition against the move.
“We’ve all been in school, we know how big a part it plays in our lives,” said Heli Mishael, a member of the All That’s Left collective that organized the protest. “Each child [in Khan al-Ahmar] has their own dream and their own aspiration at school – just like every child in Israel, just like every child in America,” she added.
The Tire School was built from sustainable materials such as recycled tires and mud, with the support of an Italian nongovernmental organization in 2009. Its pending demolition has sparked a diplomatic outcry in Europe.
A total of 174 students attend the school according to All That’s Left activists, including 91 residents of Khan al-Ahmar.
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“These are children that used to have to walk 9 kilometers [nearly 6 miles] to their school, and when the separation barrier was built their school trip became even longer,” said Mishael. “We wanted to put the number of backpacks on the ground so people would actually see these are children, these are real people.”
The United Nations added its voice last week to international pressure against the destruction of Khan al-Ahmar. The office of Nickolay Mladenov, UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, tweeted last Wednesday, “Israel should stop such actions & plans for relocating Bedouin communities in occupied West Bank. Such actions are contrary to international law & undermine the two-state solution.”
The Israeli move has sparked widespread condemnation, numerous demonstrations in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and seen Israeli and international activists standing in solidarity with Bedouin and other Palestinians at Khan al-Ahmar.
The High Court issued a temporary injunction last Thursday freezing the demolition and another temporary injunction was issued on Tuesday morning, postponing the demolition until next Monday.
However, the government still plans to carry out the eviction and resettlement of Khan al-Ahmar’s some 200 Jahalin Bedouin residents to Al-Jabal – a slum near the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Dis, situated between a garbage dump and a junkyard.
Mishael said it is important to understand the impact Israelis can have in changing the reality on the ground in the West Bank.
“We can change this if more and more people take part and resist the oppression of people in our names – because it is done in our names,” she said. “What does [the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar] say about us? What does that inform the rest of the world about who we are and what kind of world we want to build? Or the Israel we want to build?”